For busy working mothers everywhere it can be a massive struggle to make time for exercise. Apart from your tiring day job, you need to run the household. That means getting the kids up and ready for school in the morning, making sure they get to school on time, doing the dishes and laundry, planning and cooking dinner, preparing lunchboxes for the next day, not to mention trying to keep the house tidy. It truly is a miracle if you can fit any form of exercise into your hectic schedule.
In this article I would like to share the secret that have helped me to lose more weight in less time on the treadmill. And without me having to spend hours away from the little ones or my husband.
Disclaimer: This isn’t really a “secret”, or some kind of magic bullet that will make you drop two dress sizes overnight. However, if you implement this program in your treadmill routine, and you stick to it for 6 weeks or longer, you will see results. Trust me, it worked wonders for me.
Before we get to the “secret”…
If you are one those disciplined mums that can get your exercise in at the end of a day, I salute you. You are an incredible woman. I have tried, but I am completely spent at the end of the day. I have to get my exercise in at the very start of my day, otherwise it is not going to happen. A few months ago I made the decision to get up 30 minutes earlier than usual in an effort to start the day with some exercise.
I was motivated and it went well for the first couple of weeks. Sure, I missed a couple of workouts here and there because of the kids not feeling well. That is just part of being a mother. But I tried to do at least 3 runs each week, most weeks I managed 4-5. After the first month I felt great, and had dropped a dress size. I have to admit I was incredibly disciplined with my diet during this time which was a massive help. Your diet is just as important, if not more, than your treadmill routine. You can’t expect to run 20 minutes a day and then continue to stuff your face with unhealthy foods.
Anyway, what I am trying get at, is that no training regime will work if you aren’t disciplined in your efforts and making smart diet choices.
Let’s get to the “secret” I discovered.
The secret to losing more weight in less time
Think of what an Olympic sprinter looks like. And then compare it with an Olympic long distance runner. The first has a chiseled and muscular body, while the second is what most would consider skinny. These two different body types clearly illustrate that not all cardio exercise brings the same results. The way you exercise has a huge impact on what you get out.
Slow and steady is what makes for a skinny body, while training at very high intensity for short bursts leads to a more balanced, muscular physique.
NOTE: Keep in mind that for the average working mom, you will never be able to match the training intensity of an Olympian sprinter. There is no way that a few 20 minute runs every week will get you anywhere near to the physique of a sprinter. So you do not have to worry about looking overly muscular with my treadmill running plan.
The point I am trying to make here is that the sprinters are in much better shape with less running than their long distance counterparts.
You might have heard of high intensity interval training (or HIIT for short) before. While it has only become part of the mainstream fitness world, it has been around for a while now.
What exactly is HIIT?
A typical HIIT session will consist of a warm up period, like a light 5-minute jog on the treadmill. This is followed by alternating sets of high intensity and medium intensity intervals that are repeated for a set period of time. This could be 30 seconds of 100% effort alternated with 15 seconds of jogging at roughly 50% of your maximum effort. It is important to note here that there is no fixed formula for HIIT.
The general recommendation is that the ratio should be 2:1. For example, you run hard for 30 seconds and then alternate with 15 seconds of jogging or walking.
When I first started reading up on HIIT, I came across a fascinating study. The study comprised of two groups of participants. Each group exercised three times per week for the duration of the study. The first group completed steady 30 minute sessions, while the second group did only 20 minutes of high intensity interval training.
The results were astounding.
The two groups had similar weight loss numbers, but the second group (who did the HIIT) showed an impressive 2% loss in body fat compared to 0.3% loss in the first group.
A Canadian study also compared traditional cardio with interval training, and the results were similar. The traditional slow and steady approach burned nearly twice as many calories, but those doing interval training lost more body fat.
Different versions of HIIT
The first type of recorded high intensity interval training was used by Sebastian Coe in the 1970’s. His father and coach at the time, Peter Coe was responsible for this ground breaking method. Coe Jr was made to run 200m sprints with a short 30 second rest period, before completing another sprint.
Since then there have been many different versions of HIIT used in sports around the world. The famous Professor Izumi Tabata conducted a study in 1996 with Olympic speedskaters. The skaters would complete 20 seconds of ultra-high intensity training followed by a rest period of 10 seconds. This was repeated for 8 cycles over a 4-minute period. This version of HIIT is now famously known as a Tabata, is used by elite athletes as part of their training regimes and is also popular in the sport of Crossfit.
A 2009 study by Professor Martin Gibala was completed in Canada. Participants in the study did 60 seconds of intense exercise alternated with 75 seconds of rest. This routine was repeated for 8 to 12 cycles. This method is known as “The Little Method”.
How do I get started with HIIT?
Your treadmill might have programmed workouts that simulate HIIT. Look for a workout that alternates high intensity with low intensity intervals. If it does not have a programmed workout that looks right, you can use the timer on the treadmill to alternate these intervals.
If you don’t feel ready for an all-out sprint, you can start with a fast jog at an incline of 1-2% for 30 seconds. Alternate this with a steady walk for 15 seconds at the same incline.
The aim is to do short bursts of hard work interspersed with slower recovery periods. Exactly how you achieve this, is up to you. But the secret here is to make sure the high intensity intervals are just that, high intensity. You need to go really hard to make it worthwhile.
It is not recommended to do only HIIT training. I would suggest aiming for 3-5 treadmill runs per week, with every second workout being a HIIT session.
Why does interval training work so well?
If you do the same 20 minute run on the treadmill every day, your body will become accustomed to the level of effort required. Your body will be able to go at a comfortable pace without much exertion as you become fitter. At this comfortable pace, your body doesn’t have any trouble getting energy from the oxygen you inhale. Once you increase the pace, your body starts working harder with the help of other chemicals to get the energy from the same oxygen.
With interval training, you can get the same results than with a considerably longer steady workout. Not only will your body burn fat like a furnace during the bursts of high intensity, it will incinerate fat during the recovery intervals also. On top of that, your metabolism will spike for much longer after interval running than with a normal steady workout.
Training in this way takes a lot of motivation. Your throat will burn and you will be dripping with sweat. It takes a special kind of person to do this type of training, especially if you are training alone at home.
The good thing is that you will feel like you are really working hard towards your goal of losing weight. Nothing beats the feeling after a hard workout, knowing you are putting in the work. I want to challenge you to stick with interval training over the next 6 weeks. Do what you must to fit it into your busy schedule. If you can do at least 3 treadmills sessions per week (2 of which should be HIIT), and you make the right choices when it comes to your diet, you will have the other moms staring at your new body in disbelief.